Do you know what foods your chickens can and can’t eat? Quite a few foods are poisonous to chickens and it’s important to know this list of foods.  

Below we’ve listed some of the most common foods chicken do eat and those they can’t.

what do chickens eat

What Can’t Chickens Eat?

  1. Avocados – the peeling, fruit and seed are poisonous to chickens.
  2. Chocolate – chocolate especially contains a toxin called methylxanthines theobromine and is poisonous to chickens.
  3. Onions – Onions contain thiosulphate, it’s a toxin that destroys red blood cells. When fed to chickens in excess, it can cause jaundice, anemia or even death.
  4. Green Potato Skins – Raw green potato skins contain solanine, which is poisonous to chickens.
  5. Watermelon Rind or Orange Peel – they are too hard for them to eat.
  6. Junk Food – for obvious reasons.  Both people and pets should avoid this.
  7. Rotten Food

What Do Chickens Eat?

When you are growing a garden, it’ll save you money to add a few extra plants for your chickens.  Chickens love leafy vegetables, sprouts, seeds, and much more.  These plants will provide valuable nutrition for your chickens and save you money on feed bills.

Fresh greens will raise the omega-3 content of the eggs and provide that rich orange color of the yolks.  The eggs will contain a high level of vitamin A, D, E and more for your family.

Here’s a list of foods you can plant around the homestead for chickens:

  1. Sunflowers
  2. Alfalfa
  3. Apples – too much will give them a belly ache
  4. Flax
  5. Cucumber
  6. Quinoa
  7. Red Clover
  8. Cabbage
  9. Brussel Sprouts
  10. Corn
  11. Millet
  12. Wheat
  13. Mustard
  14. Various Flowers
  15. Peaches
  16. Pears
  17. Cherries
  18. Sprouts
  19. Watermelon flesh
  20. Pumpkin
  21. Squash
  22. Turnip tops
  23. Radish tops
  24. Kale
  25. Spinach
  26. Bok Choy
  27. Oats
  28. Squash
  29. Sprouts

According to this study from the British Poultry Science, adding wheat to a chicken’s diet will increase their energy and weight.  

Sprouting Food for Chickens

When fresh plants aren’t in season, chickens will benefit greatly from sprouts.  Sprouting is easy, only takes a few days and it’s fairly inexpensive.  Sprouting unlocks the nutrients from dry grains and seeds.  Just 1 tablespoon can turn into a quart size jar of food.  There’s no soil and the chickens will eat it all.

sprouting seeds for chickens

To sprout seeds or grains:

  • Allow the seeds to soak for 6-12 hours
  • Drain and put them in a mason jar
  • Put a sprouting lid over the mason jar and turn upside down into a bowl to drain
  • Repeat with rinsing and draining every 12 hours for 3 days

You can cover the mason jar with cheesecloth or a sprouting lid. We like these seeds and lids from Amazon.

Sprouting wheat and barley can be a replacement for corn. 

Do Chickens Eat Worms?

Chickens love worms, ticks and insects.  They are a great source of protein, boosts their immune system, produces stronger eggshells and helps them grow back feathers. They mainly eat earthworms and mealworms.  Mulching heavily around your shrubbery will provide a breeding ground for worms.   I also mulched heavily outside of my fenced in food forest garden.  The chickens love to hang out in that area scratching for worms. Contrary to popular belief, chickens are carnivores.  They love to eat live or dead meat.  They will devour cooked chicken.  Yeah, I know that’s pretty gross.

Would you like to know more foods that will produce stronger eggs and healthier chickens?  Check out our strong eggs post.

How Many Worms Can a Chicken Eat in a Day?

If they have a compost pile, mulch or access to a cattle pasture, your chickens will find an average of 10 worms per day.  If you are raising worms to feed your chickens, you can over do it.  Chickens should never consume too much of one type of food.  They need a variety of nutrition.  So if you raise worms I would occasionally add some worms to a compost pile, garden or area where the chickens can scratch and hunt for the worms.  They can decide for themselves how many worms they want to eat. 

Can Baby Chickens Eat Mealworms?

Yes, baby chickens can eat mealworms.  Once they are about 2 weeks old, offer them as a treat.  Feed them once a week by sprinkling them around the brooder.   Baby Chickens like live or dried mealworms.  Mealworms are an excellent source of protein compared to other chicken treats.  Chickens from 1 day old to 6 weeks need 20% protein in their diet.  

can baby chicks eat mealworms

How Many Ticks Do Chickens Eat in a Day?

According to the study from the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research:

“Chickens were allowed to scavenge for 3 h among tick-infested cattle in a typical township backyard during the milking period. The numbers of ticks ingested ranged from 0-128, with an average of 28,81 (± 8,42) per chicken. This study has confirmed that chickens are natural predators of livestock ticks and that chickens can be used as part of an integrated tick control plan in urban cattle-management systems.”

The average chicken consumes 28 ticks every 3 hours and about 112 ticks per day.  

This makes chickens very beneficial around a homestead that raises cattle.  Chickens have cut down the amount of ticks on my homestead greatly.  How do I know this?  My family and pets find a lot less ticks on us when we are in the area that my chickens roam.  

I’m sure there’s many more foods chickens do and don’t eat but these are some of the most common foods I’ve fed my birds.  What is your chicken’s favorite food around the homestead?

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Author

The Eyerly Family is a tight knit family from Texas. Married for 10 years Dane and Deena are the parents to six awesome kids! In 2021 the Eyerly's are leaving normal life behind to travel full-time throughout the United States in their Double Decker Bus which has been converted to a tiny home. Learn more about The Eyerly's here.

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